The recent rainfall has given a boost to agricultural operations in Kendrapara district, but the farmers are a worried lot as swarming caterpillars are now damaging their crop. Paddy crop in around 4,000 hectares (ha) has been damaged following the pest attack. No help from the district administration has yet reached the affected farmers although the first reports of crop damage by the pests came in three weeks back.
The farmers who are not able to use the costly pesticides to fight the menace of insects, locally known as ‘Leda poka’, now expect only less than one-eighth of their usual harvest. The insects, whose agronomical name is ‘Swarming Caterpillar’ usually come in masses by floating in the flood water. They are black in colour and
measure less than an inch in length. “A handful of rich farmers in some areas tried to prevent the onslaught by spraying costly insecticides, but the pests, fleeing from the insecticides, merely took up position in the neighbouring fields, the owners of which could not afford to buy the costly chemicals,” said Gayadhar Dhal, the secretary of Kendrapara district Krusaka Sabha. Dibakar Satpathy, an agro-scientist, explained that caterpillars usually come in masses by floating in the water. “They settle down at the bottom surface of the tender leaves, usually two insects sharing a single leaf. Each insect lays at least 50 eggs before being shaken off the leaf.
The eggs are hatched within a week and the new-born insects stay back, feeding on the tender green leaves. When they leave, the leaves are dead and turned pale white,” he said. The most affected areas in the district
are Garadapur, Kansarbadadandua, Baradanga, Batighar, Jamboo, Kharnasi, Bijaynagar, Chadeiguan, Narendrapur and Baulakani villages. Deputy Director of Agriculture Kailash Chandra Ojha said the department would soon provide subsidised good quality pesticides to the farmers. “But at the same time, we have been
counselling the farmers not to use pesticides in large quantities to fight against the insects as they have a bad impact on humans as well as the environment,” he said.